AddAltmodeR and I have a little thing we like to do with the IDW Transformers comics, particularly More Than Meets The Eye, Windblade and the Dark Cybertron crossover comic: we like to read it to each other, sat on our sofa or in bed, whilst putting on voices for each character. We’re like a home-grown (and markedly less skilled) version of the Audio Knights Theatre, the group who make the podcasts of people reading comics (and whose work includes, but is not limited to, readings of MTMTE). Now, neither of us is an amazing impressionist, and we’re certainly not professional voice-actor material (neither of us can talk for long enough), but attempting to do this is good fun.
So, we tend to have strong opinions on the subject of how the characters’ voices should sound. This feeds into a perennial conversation topic: which voice actors we’d like to hear in a (hypothetical) animated version of More Than Meets The Eye. This post is going to be a long one. It’s also unapologetically self-indulgent; I’m not kidding myself that there are a huge number of people who care what voices we at AddAltMode put on when reading comics aloud to each other, but for the people who will find this interesting, I hope both of you enjoy it.
So if I was casting director for an animated series or movie set in the IDW universe, (and I had unlimited resources, so as to acquire the services of any voice actor I choose), here’s how it would sound…
Some readers are going to immediately scroll to the comment box to tell me that they already know how Rodimus, Ultra Magnus et al sound when speaking. The G1 cartoon and movie make it clear that Rodimus speaks like Judd Nelson, for example. One of the reasons that Generation 1 is still so highly regarded (besides nostalgia) was the incredible quality of the voice acting.
However, I’m not entirely sure that MTMTE characters should automatically be identical in voice to their G1 counterparts. Is Ultra Magnus the hard-bitten soldier, voiced by Jack Angel, the same character as Ultra Magnus the Duly-Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord?
I’d argue that they are not. The IDW universe exists separately from other iterations of Transformers, and that includes existing separately from older iterations of the “Generation 1” continuity with which it’s loosely grouped in. Furthermore, (MTMTE writer) James Roberts’ use of the English language is a distinctly British one. The Autobots aboard the Lost Light use words like “rubbish”, “knackered” and “numpty” that are rarely heard across the pond. Furthermore, given that IDW’s Ultra Magnus is a grammar snob who vigorously dislikes unclear or ambiguous language, he absolutely must have a Received Pronunciation accent. I rather imagine him sounding like the late, great Christopher Lee.
Generation 1 soundalikes
Some characters’ G1 incarnations are so iconic that I literally cannot imagine the character ever having a different voice. We seem to have run into more of this in Dark Cybertron than in the Windblade or MTMTE, but there are certainly some overlaps.
Paul Eiding’s Perceptor is Perfect. Try saying that three times fast after a couple of drinks. Eiding’s understated, precise, and perpetually calm delivery suits an unflappable, ever-thoughtful science-bot. We at AddAltMode are looking forward to seeing Paul Eiding at TFNation this year. Gregg Berger’s Grimlock was likewise so formative in the evolution of the “smartest Dinobot of all” that I can’t imagine Grimlock sounding any other way… except in the special case of RID2015… but that Grimlock is very much a different character.
Hound isn’t a huge character in MTMTE, but what little he does say seems to fit his G1 namesake’s laconic Texan drawl quite comfortably.
The Dark Cybertron event was essentially a crossover between MTMTE and it’s cybertron-centric other half (called Robots In Disguise at the time) so it featured a lot of characters who aren’t normally in MTMTE all that much. Now obviously, Optimus Prime will sound like Peter Cullen until the heat-death of the universe. Cullen also provided the voice for gravelly, southern-accented Ironhide — a solid voice for a no-nonsense macho-bot.
Similarly perennial is Corey Burton’s iconic Shockwave voice, used in Transformers Animated as well as the original cartoon, and inspired by David Warner’s performance as Sark in Tron. Likewise, Soundwave’s voice will always be Frank Welker’s… under a mass of modulation and electronic distortion. It’s rather apt that Welker — who has enormous range as a voice actor — should have done a perfect voice for a character who can manipulate sound with great skill.
Other Transformers Cartoons & Games
Here at Addaltmode, we’re rather fond of Jeffrey Combs’ voice-work as Ratchet in Transformers Prime, and we’re excited to hear he’s returning to the role in Robots In Disguise (2015 animation). He’s one of a few voice actors who’ve created voices in non-G1 Transformers cartoons that have infused our readings.
Transformers Prime is also the home of Steve Blum’s fantastic Starscream — one of the few Starscream voice actors to climb out from under Chris Latta’s shadow, in my opinion. Prime Starscream is the most interesting and developed character to bear that name, so his voice has etched itself into my brain as the go-to “Starscream” voice. Likewise Sumalee Montano’s Arcee, although to be honest the grim and serious IDW Arcee already has more in common with the Prime version of the character than any version voiced by the legendary Susan Blu.
Frank Welker (again) has a delightfully vaudeville and sinister Megatron, but his characterisation of Megatron as Transformers Prime‘s fallen and corrupted former hero has enough depth to it that this would could carry a repentant and pensive MTMTE Megatron very well.
Nautilator gets a brief mention here, because multiple characters tell him that his voice is exactly like Megatron’s.
Slag (Later called Slug) the Dinobot has the same surly “Me Slag no like anything” attitude that his G1 ‘toon counterpart has but, perhaps because he speaks in proper sentences, rather than the weird caveman/baby-talk of the G1 Dinobots, I hear his voice in my head when reading his lines as more like the voice of Slug in the Fall of Cybertron video game, as voiced by Travis Willingham. Willingham’s rich baritone gives the impression of a huge dude (he voices Thor in the Avengers Assemble ‘toon), who has an earnestness to him. Ideal for a big strong bot who knows what he wants and races straight toward it at all times — a sentient battering-ram.
Lockdown in the IDW universe owes a great debt to the character of the same name in Transformers: Animated. It would be fitting then to use the same voice actor, the multi-talented Lance Henriksen. Henriksen is awesome in almost everything he’s in.
IDW’s Drift has never been depicted in cartoon form at all (Correct me if I’m wrong, that’s what the comments box is for!), so the voice we chose to use for him is the gravelly, serious and mildly Japanese-accented Voice of Drift from the current RID cartoon. Similarly, I typically imagine Windblade’s voice as being pretty much the same as that in RID2015, but AddAltModeR gives her a slightly posher, more RP accent.
Waspinator, Knock Out and Sky-Byte (and the bit-part pseudo-maximals from Eukaris) are clearly Expys of characters from other Transformers franchises; therefore their original voice actors’ voices fit perfectly. It helps that both Daran Norris and Peter Spellos are awesome voice actors, who infused their roles with powerful doses of personality.
For the voice of Prowl, whilst Michael Bell’s voice from the G1 cartoon would be perfectly adequate, the voice I settled on was that used for Prowl in defunct MMO Transformers Universe, where he was a lugubrious advisor/announcer for Autobot players. I’ve no idea who played Prowl in the now-dead browser game, but his voice was absolutely amazing; reminiscent of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus in The Matrix, but about an octave deeper.
Influence of the Audio Knights
As I wrote above, The Audio Knights Theatre have done an excellent audio performance of More Than Meets The Eye. Their vocal deliveries have heavily influenced our perception of a few of the characters, and there’s a few we can’t imagine sounding any other way than they do in TAKT.
Brainstorm, Ship’s Genius… not just my Steam handle, but one of my favourite MTMTE characters. The flamboyantly enthusiastic and gleefully eccentric voice that TAKT voice artist David Cunningham gives him is perfect.
Chromedome, as voiced by Andrew Schatz, sounds like a snivelling emo kid. For a ‘bot who keeps dark unforgivable secrets from even the one that he loves, this self-pitying tone ticks all the right boxes.
Andrew Schatz also voices Tailgate, who he gives a low, slightly throaty, voice. It’s a great voice for a tough little slugger who keeps on going no matter what happens.
Noted Voice Actors from Elsewhere
Voice actors from other franchise have also inspired us a little, and have given voices that we seem to slip into unavoidably when voicing certain characters.
Dameon Clarke’s performance as Handsome Jack in the Borderlands franchise would make a great voice for Rodimus. Yeah Jack’s super-evil, but his status as a self-appointed “hero” and his tendency to get through life using a combination of charisma and confidence-bordering-arrogance mirrors the Captain of the Lost Light. During Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, particularly early on, when Jack is trying to live up to the idea of the “hero” he has declared himself to be, but before his spectaculr fall from grace Jack is at his most Rodimus-like. Rodimus surrounds himself with better friends than Jack, and is more willing to learn from his mistakes, so he’s unlikely (unless James Roberts really wants to shock his readers) to start deceiving himself as to his heroic status to the destructive extent that Jack does.
… and Jack would totally give out medals in the the image of his face and expect his followers to be pleased with that.
Another videogame comparison, Trailcutter is “hard not to like”, a gentle cheery soul who improves the morale of all those around him. However, in Spotlight: Trailcutter, we see that he can quite happily kick a bunch of no-good dirty ‘cons off the Lost Light single-handedly when he needs to. His focus on defence and apparent good nature puts me in mind of the defensive specialist from Team Fortress 2, voiced by Grant Goodeve.
Multi-talented comedian/ voice-actor Patton Oswalt would be a great voice for Swerve. Oswalt got the gig as Remy in Pixar’s Ratatouille when his “Black Angus” skit was heard on the radio by Director Brad Bird. Bird thought that Oswalt’s voice would suit a “small person with a big personality”, which is Swerve to a tee. Also, Oswalt’s pretty blunt about his own weaknesses and insecurities, battling his personal demons by deriving powerful and cathartic humour form them. Finally, Swerve loves Earth’s comedy, so It makes perfect sense to use the talents of a comedian for his voice. Swerve’s greatest love in Earth culture is sit-coms, which makes a perfect segue to discussing the voice of Thunderclash, the “Greatest Autobot of All Time”
The perfect voice for Thunderclash would be the plummy & affected voice used by Chris Barrie whilst playing Ace Rimmer, heroic trans-dimensional counterpart to the smeg-head hologram Rimmer in Red Dwarf. Ace Rimmer is hero-worshipped by his friends, and grudgingly admired by his enemies, but always speaks to encourage and build-up others. A person with nothing to prove & who has no reason to be jealous or snarky to anyone. What a guy!
The voice used by AddAltModeR for the DJD’s feisty little mechanic/medic Nickel resembles that used for Kate Monster in the UK production of Avenue Q. She’s squeaky and a little bit nasal. She was originally played by Stephanie D’Abruzzo, but I think that she was performed by Julie Atherton on the UK tour, and that version of the character is the voice we’re aiming for.
In our headcanon, Pipes sounds like Craig Charles. Why? Frankly, we’ve no idea. It just feels right.
Cyclonus was difficult to find a voice for. At first, we used an Audio Knights Theatre based voice, low-pitched and serious, with a Russian accent. He sounded a bit like Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2. As Cyclonus got longer lines in successive issues, Heavy’s terse voice no longer worked, and his slavic accent got more gentle, more akin to the voice of Borderlands‘ Marcus Kincaid. When we read as far as issue #13 of MTMTE, “Cybertronian Homesick Blues”, where the ship’s security interrupt Cyclonus’ enjoyment of some ancient Cybertronian music because nearby ‘bots are scared by his singing, I had an epiphany. Cyclonus’ seriousness, his dislike of overly-chummy social interaction, his adherence to an ancient and mostly-forgotten religion, and his adoration for his homeland in it’s natural state, all point in the same direction: he’s kvlt!
Realising that Cyclonus is so very black metal allowed me to find the perfect voice for him. Well-spoken and Norwegian-accented: Satyricon’s vocalist Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven.
If you don’t know chap-hop rapper and noted eccentric Professor Elemental, you’re missing out. Hop over to his website and get on the Elemental train, next stop: Glorious Steampunk Lunacy! Anyway, the Prof’s done more than a few songs about how the weirdos and misfits of this world ought to band together and have a jolly good time without those boring normal people stumbling about in our way. His boundless optimism and nerd pride, as evidenced on delightful tracks like All In Together and Enter The Convention, tally nicely with Skids’s relationships to his close circle of friends made-up of those ‘bots who are outsiders even on a strange ship like the Lost Light: Rung, Nautica, Brainstorm & Nightbeat.
Tarn, the leader of the DJD, started off sounding very similar to Megatron. I could almost imagine Tarn altering his own voice to match Megatron’s as an act of hero-worship, much like Pyro in Last Stand of the Wreckers does in emulation of his hero and saviour, Optimus Prime.
However, Tarn is much more affably evil, more educated and cultured than is typical among Decepticons. Tarn certainly doesn’t see himself as evil. There are a few monstrous Decepticons in the IDW universe who are monsters and know it, but Tarn is convinced that he is working towards a better future, doing a job that the universe needs done that no-one else can or will do. The more I’ve read Tarn, the more his voice has morphed from straightforward villain to assured softly-spoken intellectual. Tarn also speaks for quite a while, and so he needs the voice of a well-educated person who is quite comfortable taking the necessary time to explain something, perhaps simply, as to a layman. Not a whisper, but no more forcefully spoken than is necessary. The voice that I setted on … was almost exactly the same as that … of David Attenborough when he’s narrating … the wildlife documentaries for which he is so rightly famous. Even … down to the pauses that let slower-thinking listeners catch up, … whilst subtly emphasising his point.
Other Voices: Rapid fire!
I don’t have a specific voice actor in mind when think of Rung’s voice, but I’m sure that he would speak gently, and use Received Pronunciation. Whirl’s voice would be scratchy and manic, almost like Chris Latta’s Starscream! Riptide has a cockney accent in my head, for whatever mad reason. Nautica is read by AddAltModeR using her own natural voice: contralto and with a unique accent produced by the combination of a childhood in rural Somerset followed by a string of Literature degrees and a career working in universities: well-educated but with a gentle hint of South-Western burr.
Ravage has another scratchy voice, this seems to be a Decepticon thing. Mainframe gets a stereotypically “robotic” voice, sounding like the product of a speech synthesiser. Vos speaks only the Primal Vernacular, an ancient Cybertronian language. I can only imagine it sounds like Bayformer noises: blasts of modem sounds modulated into snarls such as in the scene in the 2007 movie wherein the Decepticons mobilize. Finally Overlord’s grandiose ranting puts me in mind of the wizard Zargothrax in Gloryhammer’s fantasy concept albums, voiced in
spoken ranted word sections by Christopher Bowes, in particular the closing narration from the track “Apocalypse 1992”.
There are thousands of other characters in the IDW universe, so if I’ve missed out one of your favourites, you have an alternate voice suggestion, or you think this whole article is self-indulgent nonsense, feel free to tell me in the comments section below.